Chinese official suggests a trade compromise with U.S.
BEIJING – A senior Chinese trade official on Saturday called for a compromise between the United States and China that could make a trade deal easier to reach this spring. But it could also lead to a more fragile agreement, which could fall apart quickly should trade frictions rise again.
Over the past year, the most contentious issue in the countries’ trade talks has been the Trump administration’s demand for what it calls an enforcement provision, which would allow the United States to monitor China’s behavior and put penalties in place if the Chinese violated the deal.
The Trump administration has pressed China to accept an agreement allowing the United States to unilaterally reimpose tariffs if it concludes that China has not gone through with structural changes to its economy. In the past month, the administration has also pushed for a broader enforcement mechanism, which would include the right to reimpose tariffs for any category of goods in which imports from China surge.
In exchange, the Trump administration would roll back at least some of the tariffs it placed on $250 billion of imports from China it imposed last year, penalties that have strained ties between the governments, rocked financial markets and thrown the future of companies that operate in both countries in doubt.
Chinese officials have strongly resisted the idea of an enforcement provision. They worry the Trump administration, or future ones, could invoke it at any time to restart trade frictions.
But Wang Shouwen, China’s vice minister of commerce for international trade negotiations, said China would be amenable to an agreement that gave each side an equal right to take trade actions against the other side after an agreement was struck.
Wang did not address another aspect of the enforcement question that has deeply divided the United States and China.
While the Trump administration wants the right to reimpose tariffs unilaterally, China’s Commerce Ministry has favored creating a lengthy process of bilateral consultations if either side has a grievance.
In testimony before Congress on Feb. 27, Robert Lighthizer, President Trump’s top trade negotiator, outlined a possible method for enforcing the deal under which the two sides would hold a regular series of meetings at multiple levels of government, and, if China violated the agreement, U.S. tariffs would spring back into force.